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Blame Game: Primetime Collapse Shines a Spotlight on the Dolphins Weaknesses

Who should shoulder the blame for the loss to the Tennessee Titans?

Tennessee Titans v Miami Dolphins Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Murphy’s law was in full effect last night in the Miami Dolphins’ loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football. Murphy’s Law is typically stated as “anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time,” and that sums up what I saw Monday night. The Dolphins couldn’t catch a break, and if you don’t execute, you can be beaten by anyone, even by a rookie quarterback at home up 14 points with 5 minutes left in the game.

There’s blame shared across the board. Tua Tagovailoa didn’t have a great game and couldn’t shoulder the load. The Dolphins came in injured and left even more injured. Costly penalties and miscommunications killed drives, and questionable play calling on both sides was the cherry on top. All in all, all those factors equal a loss more times than not, no matter who you’re playing.

Is it Hill or Bust?

All of the Dolphins, and Tua haters crept out of their parent’s basement last night to all come out to one consensus, and that’s Tyreek Hill is the MVP, not Tua. Watching last night’s game gives the doubters more ammo at a talking point level, but the offensive struggles were deeper than that.

Coming into the game, the Dolphins were starting three backup offensive linemen along with Austin Jackson, and Conor Williams. During the first drive, Conor Williams got rolled up on and was gone for the rest of the game. So the Dolphins pretty much ran with four backups, and Austin Jackson for the whole game. That was just the start of their problems.

The Dolphins drove down the field and got the ball to the two-yard line. Once there, backup center Liam Eichenberg fumbled the snap, and although Tua was able to pick up the football, the defensive tackle was in his face and caused a second fumble recovered by the Titans.

It felt like every time the Dolphins drove down the field, something negative happened. Tua and Jaylen Waddle couldn’t get on the same page on a couple of throws and were lucky one of them didn’t turn into a pick-six. The offensive line couldn’t hold up, and Tua was running for his life on too many passing plays. When they did hold up, it felt like the receivers weren’t getting open. I once thought the receiving core was deep, and it looked last night without Hill.

Once Hill came back in during the second half, it felt like everything was back to normal. Tua hit Hill with some dimes, and everything seemed right in the world. The problem was that Hill was playing injured and had to keep coming out. Once he did, the offense would stall out. You could come out concluding the Dolphins offense is Tyreek Hill-reliant. I’d argue that losing Tyreek Hill, and Conor Williams and already being down three other offensive linemen would stifle any offense.

Let’s also not forget that Tua didn’t do anything to negatively affect the offense. He was eluding danger all night, successfully for the most part, and the only turnover-worthy play he had was a pass when Waddle was coming across the middle and hit a 180, thinking that Tua was going for a scramble drill. Outside of that, he had a decent game. He just couldn’t Atlas the offense for the Dolphins.

No Trust in the Ground Game?

The one bright spot for the offense was running back Raheem Mostert. He was consistent all game and should’ve been relied on more. Most fans and Dolphins analysts were calling for more run plays since the line couldn’t give Tua a clean pocket, but Mike McDaniel, as much respect I have for him was too stubborn to stick with the ground attack, and that needs to change, especially during December football.

McDaniel, plain and simple, has to run the ball more, especially on short-down plays. It won’t always work, but there needs to be more of a commitment to it. As much as fans love seeing the fireworks show, running the ball is the biggest strength of the offensive line, especially with the backups in.

I don’t want to bag on McDaniel too much because he schemed up plays that worked but weren’t executed, like the long ball dime to De’Von Achane, where Achane slowed his route down and couldn’t get to it. If he doesn’t slow down, that’s a touchdown, and the whole outlook of the game changes. Achane also caught a swing pass on the last drive with a one-on-one tackler to beat for a first down. He beat him, and if he just went straight, he would get the first down, but he tried to cut to the outside and got tackled before going out of bounds. A rookie mistake that forced the fourth and two plays that ended the game for the Dolphins, and he’ll learn from that.

Evil Vic Fangio strikes again!

There’s a funny relationship between a fan and a coach. It’s not personal, but it’s like watching a dad with their kids from afar if you don’t have kids. You believe they’re doing everything a good dad should to put their kids in a position to succeed, but you don’t know what they’re telling them. It could be bad, or even terrible advice, and you only see the product of it in their kids. The same thing goes with coaches. You trust the coach to put the players in a position to succeed because they’re an NFL coach, and you’re not, but you can see blunders from a mile away. That was Vic Fangio Monday night.

The defense was playing great all game outside the uncharacteristic penalty on Bradley Chubb’s helmet throw in frustration heading to the sidelines. That caused a first down in the red zone, leading to a touchdown rather than a long field goal attempt.

Outside of that, the defense was dominant. That’s until five minutes left in the game, and Vic Fangio suddenly forgot how to coordinate. The Dolphins went to a prevent defense. That’s just don’t let the long ball happen. Let everything drop in front of you, and rally to the ball. He abandoned everything that was working the whole game to a defense that’s a play-to-not-lose type of defense. As we know, everything went downhill from there. A team missing their best tackling safeties bet on the secondary making tackles. The Titans jogged seventy-five yards down the field and scored a touchdown in a minute and fifty-four seconds.

Mike McDaniel played the timeout game, which is also playing not to lose in my eyes, instead of trying to get a first down, and ran the ball twice. On third down, the pocket collapsed, and Tua tried to scramble for a first down but was brought down short. It didn’t matter if he got it because there was a holding penalty that would’ve negated it. Dolphins punt.

Lo and behold. Vic Fangio has the defense playing way off again, and the Titans sped-walked another sixty-four yards in 26 seconds for a second touchdown. Titans took the lead and never looked back. Collapse completed.

Who’s to Blame?

So many things went wrong for the Dolphins, but I will make a small point that once again, it felt like the Dolphins were playing against the Titans, and the refs.

They missed a handful of holds, the horse collar tackle on Tyreek Hill, some roughing the passer calls, and an arguable defensive delay of the game that I just learned about at 31 years old. I’ve believed that the defense can make any movement they want to get the offensive players to move as long as they don’t pass the ball. I still can’t wrap my mind around that.

Nevertheless, outside the refs, there’s more than enough blame to go around. The offensive line was a mess, injuries caught up with them, receivers weren’t separating, Achane had his worst game as a pro, Waddle and Tua’s connection was off, Jason Sanders missed another field goal, and the defense fell asleep giving up 15 points in less than 5 minutes, and there’s more I could rattle off. Either way, it was a total collapse, and there’s blame to go around. The Dolphins need to make sure these problems don’t bleed into the rest of the season because these last four games are about as difficult as it gets.

Let us know in the comments who should shoulder most of the blame for the loss against the Tennessee Titans.